Posted May 19, 2013

Kobe Bryant: Comparison with Michael Jordan is ‘apples to oranges’

Ben Golliver, Chicago Bulls, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson
Michael Jordan (left) and Kobe Bryant faced off in the 2003 All-Star Game. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Michael Jordan (left) and Kobe Bryant are compared by Phil Jackson in his new book. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson writes in his upcoming book Eleven Rings that Michael Jordan was a better leader, shooter and defender than Kobe Bryant.

Despite that clear-cut assessment from the coach who oversaw every title won by both guards, Bryant seems unwilling to concede the historical debate.

“The comparisons are apples to oranges,” Bryant wrote on Twitter. “Wonder what the perception would be if [Jordan] played [with Shaquille O'Neal] instead. Different roles, different career paths.”

The Los Angeles Times printed excerpts of Jackson’s book, which is set for release on May 21, earlier this week.

“One of the biggest differences between the two stars from my perspective was Michael’s superior skills as a leader,” Jackson said. “Though at times he could be hard on his teammates, Michael was masterful at controlling the emotional climate of the team with the power of his presence. Kobe had a long way to go before he could make that claim. He talked a good game, but he’d yet to experience the cold truth of leadership in his bones, as Michael had.”

Jackson noted the “pronounced” difference in their accuracy, Jordan shooting almost 50% — an “extraordinary figure” — while Bryant had been at 45%.

“No question, Michael was a tougher, more intimidating defender. He could break through virtually any screen and shut down almost any player with his intense, laser-focused style of defense.”

After the excerpt was published, Jackson wrote on Twitter that his words shouldn’t be read as a put down of Bryant.

“Listen friends of [basketball],” he wrote. “Don’t get hung up on words. I was most fortunate to have the chance to coach two of the greatest [guards] ever.”

It’s no surprise that the self-assured Bryant isn’t willing to settle for the silver medal just yet. The same gene that governs his next-level, late-game bravery is at play here, refusing to give an inch in a battle that won’t truly be over until Bryant retires. Bryant wouldn’t really be Bryant if he responded to Jackson’s rundown by saying, “MJ is the greatest there was, is and ever will be.” Frankly, the world would be a little disappointed in him if that happened.

Even though Jackson’s assessment aligns closely with conventional wisdom, as noted earlier this week, there’s no reason for a concession speech from Bryant yet. Although an Achilles tear casts a cloud of uncertainty over his 2013-14 season, Bryant played well enough to compete for All-NBA First-Team honors this season at the age of 34, and he looked like he had a number of years of quality play left in his tank. Why should Bryant give up on the pursuit of unseating Jordan as the Greatest Of All Time before the final chapter has been written?

That said, Bryant’s logic here isn’t great. Playing with O’Neal should have given Bryant the opportunity to stack up title after title throughout his twenties. Instead, personalities and egos got in the way, and O’Neal was shipped out of town in 2004, leaving all sorts of hardware on the table. Bryant asks, “What would the perception be if Jordan played with O’Neal?” The short answer: Three or four more titles to add to the six he earned with the likes of Bill Wennington, Will Perdue, Bill Cartwright and Luc Longley .

Comparisons to Jordan have been a particularly hot topic recently as the Hall of Fame guard turned 50 years old in February.

Just before All-Star Weekend, Jordan offered his thoughts on Bryant and Heat forward LeBron James, expressing a preference for Bryant because of his advantage in championships.

“If you had to pick between the two, that would be a tough choice, but five beats one every time I look at it, and not that he [LeBron James] won’t get five, he may get more than that, but five is bigger than one.”

James at first brushed off that talk — tweeting “I’m not MJ, I’m LJ” — but later made it clear in Houston that he very much seeks the Greatest Of All Time title.

“I want to be the greatest of all time,” James declared, adding later: “As my talent continued to grow, as I continued to know about the game, appreciate the game, continued to get better, I felt like I had the drive, first of all, the passion, the commitment to the game to place myself as the greatest of all time, the best of all time, however you want to categorize it. I don’t do it to say I’m better than this guy or that guy. I do it for my own inspiration. I inspire myself. When I go out on the floor, I want to be the best of all time. That’s how I help myself each and every night.”

Back in April, longtime NBA trainer Tim Grover, who has worked for years with both Jordan and Bryant, told SI.com that comparing Jordan to anyone besides legendary Celtics center Bill Russell would be a mistake.

“Michael Jordan was six-for-six in Finals, never lost a Finals, never needed a Game 7 to do that,” Grover said. “Just by saying that alone, that puts him in a category I don’t think anybody else is in, except maybe a Bill Russell. Other than that, I don’t know if you can really put [Jordan] in the same category [with anybody].

“I think what [James] should do, instead of worrying about where Mike was at, he should be trying to get to the accolades, get to the Finals, as many times as Kobe had. … I think the comparison [for James] should be more toward a current player he’s playing against now because of what Michael already did, and LeBron, in the early part of his career, faltered two times in the Finals. I think that [the Jordan/James] comparison can’t be made, just from that alone.”

RELATED: The Point Forward’s 50 Reasons why we’ll never forget Michael Jordan

Last summer, Bryant made headlines when he suggested that his 2012 USA Basketball team could defeat Jordan’s 1992 Dream Team.

“It’d be a tough one, but I think we’d pull it out,” he said.

Jordan responded by telling the Associated Press that he “absolutely laughed” at Bryant’s statement and that there was “no comparison” between the two teams.

Bryant, of course, was asked for a response to that response.

“So what? He knows I’m a bad mother[expletive],” Bryant told reporters after an exhibition game in Las Vegas. “I’m not really tripping.”

100 comments
vrally
vrally

j'invite toutle monde  a analysé les premier pas de mickael jordan en NBA et les premier pas de kobe !! pas comparable 

jordan avais une energie fulgurante ! contre kobe une energie molle ! kobe devient shotter comme mickael jordan a la fin sa carriere !! hors on a pu vue et je crois qu'on ne verra pas la meme determination que jordan en debut de carriere !!

The_Sports_Dude
The_Sports_Dude

If Kobe really wants to be greater than Jordan, he should consider moving to the front office and redirecting his focus on building championship teams.  We all know Michael Jordan would be the worst front office figure in history if it weren't for Isaiah Thomas.

The_Sports_Dude
The_Sports_Dude

The greatest basketball player of all time is Kareem Abdul Jabbar; three straight high school championships, three straight college championships, 6 NBA championships with two teams, most career points, among the litany of other career achievements.  Jordan's the greatest guard of all time, but he's also the beneficiary of the greatest marketing campaign in the history of sports. 

jmt1969
jmt1969

take a step back from the drama sports fans...michael is the greatest...its simple math that we learn in 1st grade. kobe is great, without a doubt but as phil jackson put it, hes not the player jordan was.the comparisons have also started with lebron, again a great player, but not yet bud...

Mr. J
Mr. J

Apples to Oranges???.....yes comparing the two Jordan is a Florida Naval Orange and Kobe is a Crab Apples nuff said!!!...............Its not debate here ..its real simple people....Jordan was the best player on his team and in the league for all 6 of his championaships  6 finals MVPs......Kobe was not even the best player on his own team let alone the league for his first 3 championships,,,so how the h#$% could he be at Jordan's level when he is not even the best player on his team  Shaq carried him?...that is why Kobe has what like 1 league MVP..he is a gunner that was lucky enough to play with Shaq!!

HOFPufnstuf
HOFPufnstuf

I think the comparison is more like apples , jordan, to a tool, Lobe

Richard69
Richard69

LIke it sez on The "Statue" "The GREATEST there ever was, The GREATEST, there ever will be" "nufff said!!


Rick C

OK
OK

Da Alleged Rapist whines again...

Pares Hilton
Pares Hilton

You argue but will you BUY Phil's book? :-)

SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

Kobe was not even the best play on his team when he played with Shaq.

SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

More like apples to crabapples.

KenCheng
KenCheng

Re:  the respective teams.

Kobe had Shaq, but MJ's teams were much stronger at all other positions except, perhaps, point guard.  

amarshall54
amarshall54

If you notice, no one questions Mike.  OK, he needed help,  as all do  But  nobody questions Michael.  Michael was the greatest.  If you disagree, tell me why.  Could Bill Russell win 11 championships today ... I don't know ... but maybe not.

trooper707
trooper707

Bringing up "the likes of Bill Wennington, Will Perdue, Bill Cartwright and Luc Longley" you conveniently forget to mention Jordan played with Hall of Famers Dennis Rodman and Scottie Pippin. There's a good chance Jordan was the better of the two but Bryant is certainly in the conversation. I tire of hearing that Jordan played on a team of muppets, he had a hall of fame cast by his side.

HOFPufnstuf
HOFPufnstuf

Very tired of Phil and his smug mug everywhere.he doesn't want to coach or be a fulltime exec like Riley. He and his coyness are wearing thin.I know he has eleven rings but part of me wonders if he isn't the coaching equivalent to Robert horry

DeanHewitt
DeanHewitt

Kobe is right, it is apples to oranges.  I remember reading an article in "Sport" magazine wondering if Jordan would ever win a championship.    Jordan won his first at 27, think 7 years before he won his first.  I like Kobe a lot, I would take either to start a team.  If Kobe had Pippen playing alongside, do you think he would have been successful.....  Would Jordan have won championships with Shaq, of course.  I can state I saw the two best two  guards to ever play the game.  Enough said....

Duker
Duker

Typicsl Kobe...he's no Jordan and sour about someone who knows more about ball is saying so to the world.  Suck it up, Jordan was better in all of those areas.  Jordan made his teammates better.  All Kobe does is try to make himself look better.  Jackson is right on the money

JulesG
JulesG

My personal opinion is that Phil likes to use controversy to sell book. Period. And, most of us being fixated on Jordan comparisons, because it is our "air" (pun intended), always get in the middle of it. But why disrespect a player playing through his legacy RIGHT NOW? Why use MJ as a way to make any great player after him seem less great? How is that even being a fan of BASKETBALL? That is being a fan and sycophant of Michael Jordan. I say let's move on and enjoy players today, because that is more relevant than what MJ already accomplished. I think Kobe was done a great disservice to have his Coach make the comments, then downplay them because he saw how it could be hurtful. Especially when it's obvious that they were different. Different upbringings, career paths, views, etc. So why does EVERYONE HAVE TO BE MJ?! I enjoyed following MJ from his days even before he won a title all the way until he became a God in basketball. But now it has gone too far. I don't want to live in the 1990s in every sports conversation pertaining to players I am watching now. Kobe is one of the greatest players I have ever seen play, with almost no weaknesses to his game. Superior footwork, shooting, work ethic, post up game, defense, and passing. The things he is not good at is what makes him human. Does not take away from his greatness. MJ's legacy peaks for itself. Let's move on instead of emotionally gravitating towards or against either of them all the *#*&$ time.

Cool
Cool

One notable difference between the two and their leadership.  When the Bulls lost a game with MJ playing, they lost as a team.  When Lakers lose a game KB always finds someone else to blame.  What in the hell was he thinking when he threw in the Shaq reference..  if he had learned to play the game with his teammate (Shaq) instead of against, I agree with the writer, he would have had more championships.

amarshall54
amarshall54

Phil Jackson just said that MJ was a better leader, shooter, and defender than Kobe.  I think that is an honest and fair evaluation.  But I say again ... Jordan was a ruthless SOB, and he wanted to win at ... everything.  Is LeBron James like Michael ... maybe, but maybe not.  I don't think anyone was quite life Jordan.  In 10 years, my opinion may change, but as of now, I think Jordan was the greatest, in any sport.  Before and after every game, he had 50 microphones in his face, and in between, he performed .... in the spotlight.

amarshall54
amarshall54

I'm an old guy ... I saw Michael through his whole career.  He needed help, first Pippen, and then Rodman, but make no mistake, MJ was a ruthless SOB.  San Antonio gave up on Rodman ... uncoachable ... but you could not do what he did with the Bulls .... Jordan was too strong of a leader and a role example.   I knew it,  and I saw it.  Other coaches told their players to shut up about MJ ... brag, and he would light you up for 50 points, all the while talking trash in your face.  New York told Spike Lee to shut up!  Physically, LeBrpon is the superior ... but win ... rings?  I don't know.  Michael Jordan was a ruthless SOB even to his teammates, and he won.  Yes, he needed Pippen (a close second or third),  but the Bulls with MJ, Pippen, and Rodman vs the Heat ... well you decide.  Pippen was easily the equal of Wade.  And who would match up against Rodman?  Michael Jordan would score against anyone.  And Michael had to defend against the best guard on the opposing team ... every night.  Maybe when all is said and done, LeBron may be the greatest, but as of now, Michael has no equal.   Even in his HOF speech, he was a combative pain in the rear.  If you didn't live in the Michael years, then you don't really know ... and I invite comment or argument!

Charlie P
Charlie P

OK, we have comments from Phil Jackson, Kobe, Jordan and LeBron first, then Tim Grover, a personal trainer?  I would estimate Mr. Grover, despite knowing Kobe and Jordan personally, has as much authority on this topic as a couch patato who has been watching NBA for the last 20 years.

tfaw
tfaw

kobe was pretty good at sexual assault.  he is also good at blaming other people.  no doubt a top 20 player, but not even close to being number one because of his obvious lack of leadership issue

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@KenCheng So, so wrong.  

MJ never had a player the caliber of Shaq.  Pippen was great.  But Shaq is a top 5 all-time Big.

Plus, you need to go look at the roster MJ and Pippen won their first bunch of rings with.  Scrubs galore. I'll grant you that the team became loaded when Rodman and Kukoc signed on, but that was only for rings 4 through 6.

Mr. J
Mr. J

@KenCheng And center do you know how bad the Bulls point guards and centers were..The team was Jordan, Pippen, Horace Grant fist 3 ,,then Jordan, Pippen and Rodman,,, Jordan just know how to make the other players betters..so they all benefited and had longer careers because of Jordan....also Jordan lifts his players up and does not tear them down like Kobe!..its sucks being a Kobe fan huh

SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

@amarshall54 

Larry Bird was maybe the best pure basketball player, but he was no elite athlete like Jordan was, that is for sure.

amarshall54
amarshall54

@trooper707 ALL players need a cast ... no one wins the championship themselves.  Jordan changed the game .... no longer did you need a dominant centre.  And I say again, Jordan was a ruthless SOB that took over a game, as Phil said (trying to sell his book), offensively, defensively, and as a leader.  Michael could score at will, and would today, but yes, he needed Pippen, and later Rodman, to win the rings.  OKC just lost ... why ... because Westbrook was out and the defense could stop Durant.   As great as Durant is, he, like Michael, cannot win by himself.  But, who, is greater than Jordan at all aspect of the game, including dealing with the media.

amarshall54
amarshall54

@trooper707 There is no doubt that Pippen (and Rodman) was the key ... the final key to Jordan's success.  He scored 63 vs the great Boston team, and lost.  Say what you what, but make no mistake, Jordan was the man.  Phil Jackson is trying to sell a book ... OK.  But where is he wrong ... Jordan WAS superior offensively, defensively, and as a team leader, than Kobe.  And Kobe is certainly in the top 5 all-time ... but he is not "like Mike".

JM5
JM5

@trooper707 You're correct, he played with a hall of fame cast by his side for 3 years of his career:  Rodman was age 35-37, MJ 33-35, and Pippen 31-33 for those years. 

 As a contrast, look at the Lakers this year.  Gasol was 32 this year, Howard 27.  Bryant 33.  And the Hall of Famer among them, 2x MVP Steve Nash, was 38.  That's a pretty impressive team with the right amount of age on them. 


The reason Bill, Will, Luc etc get brought up is because the Center position is where Shaq played.  And because it's usually the biggest player on the court, it is often the position that can dominate a game most easily. 

Mike26
Mike26

@HOFPufnstuf You clearly are new to sports, so why not start at the T-ball level and come back in a few years.  It's quite clear you're unable to understand basketball.

Richard69
Richard69

@JulesG Read The "Statue" The one in front of The Staples Center!!!!! (Magic is the "Greatest" Laker)

Rick C

amarshall54
amarshall54

@JulesG Hey, all you have said is fair.  Kobe is certainly one of the GOAT.  I only agree with Phil Jackson, who is trying to sell his book.   Beyond Michael's skills, it is the man.  I tell my sons, he had a microphone in his face before and after every game, and still he went onto the court and performed.  Coaches DID tell their players not to say anything about Michael.  I tell my sons to "be like Mike".  I don't say "be like Kobe".  As a package, Michael Jordan was the greatest player in the history of the game.  Kobe is Kobe, and he will never be like Mike.  Lebron,  well let's wait a few years.

Wirric
Wirric

@amarshall54 LeBron will never be in Jordan's class for one reason.  He QUIT on his team.  Not talking about the Decision.  I am talking about the Playoff games vs. the Celtics his last year in Cleveland.  I was a LeBron fan until then and I will agree that he has Michael beat physically, but he has never had Jordan's drive or heart.  He never will.

John NoLastName
John NoLastName

@amarshall54 I lived in the "Michael years", and I do know. In fact, I was living in Salt Lake City when the Jazz and Bulls met twice in the Finals. For the first one, the Jazz were deer in the headlights, but the second one, I thought they had a legitimate shot.

Until, that is, the lead sports columnist of the Salt Lake Tribune wrote that Jordan was a "loser" after the first game of the series, which the Jazz won. 

When I saw that, I thought ... "holy hell, somebody buy up all those copies of that newspaper and burn them before Jordan sees it."

I was right. He played like a man possessed after that, including the "flu game". Whatever else you can say about him, for god's sake you don't call Jordan a "loser".

Richard69
Richard69

@Charlie P The word is "Potato" as  in "Head" are you running for political office? (Like vice-president)

Rick C 

jberry351
jberry351

@tfaw Talk sports or go away. At the very least, try being clever.

trooper707
trooper707

@JM5 @trooper707 And I know you know this, but others reading your post may be confused. Jordan played with Pippen his entire career, Rodman overlapped for just 3 of those years.

trooper707
trooper707

@JM5 @trooper707 I don't think we disagree, Jordan the better player, both had good and often great supporting casts. 

amarshall54
amarshall54

@John NoLastName @amarshall54 I don't take anything away from all the great sport figures in all of sports, but New York told Spike Lee to shut up about Michael ... what else is there to say?  What Michael did to Karl Malone, and then to win the NBA championship will forever be etched on my mind ... he was the greatest.  Read about the 72 Dream Team ... and how Michael battled Magic Johnson in practice.  Two indomitable forces colliding ... and read what Michael did.   Interesting!

tfaw
tfaw

@jberry351 @tfaw last time i checked, jordan was never arrested for sexual assault.  you are probably one of those dumber that dirt types who can't associate leadership and decision making to excellence within the sports realm.  surprised you had time to find to get out of your trailer and borrow someone's computer to make a post.

amarshall54
amarshall54

@trooper707 @amarshall54 You are right (in my opinion) that one guy cannot win a championship ... Jordan needed Pippen, and later Rodman,  But, in the final analysis, Jordan was the man.  And ... I want to be like Mike.

Richard69
Richard69

@amarshall54 @John NoLastName What everyone here tends to forget is that MJ left 2 Titles on the table for Akeem when he got "bored" of BB to follow his chilhood dream of playing baseball!

Rick C

tfaw
tfaw

@jberry351 @tfaw maybe im not that smart, but i make over seven figures a year, paid in cash.  so may people find my money interesting....

amarshall54
amarshall54

@JulesG @tfaw @jberry351 To be as great as Jordan, you have to be a narcissistic prick.  He didn't want to lose at anything.  I don't care what he did off court.  Phil Jackson, trying to sell his book, was still correct ... Jordan was superior offensively, defensively, and as a leader.  And yes he was a narcissistic prick, as his HOF speech showed.  Larry Bird, as a member of the greatest team of all-time (arguably), said that he did think anyone could score so many points against his team.  Its hard to argue against MJ as the GOAT, and let's see what LeBron does?

JulesG
JulesG

@tfaw @jberry351 Yeah, but Jordan was a narcissistic, rude, compulsive prick. He did cheat on his wife with multiple women, he did physically assault a teammate, he did call the rookie he drafted a female body part that start with a P and ends in U-S-S-Y, he did have extreme gambling habits that may have been why his Father was killed. And Kobe was cleared of sexual assault because the girl had sex with 3 different Men, two right after Kobe allegedly raped her...but....apples to oranges...

jberry351
jberry351

@tfaw @jberry351 Wrong across the board. I just think we should focus on sports on a website devoted to sports. And you're really not smart or interesting.